Ethan Johnson (6-foot-4, 265 pounds) committed to the Irish coaches after spending five days on the Notre Dame campus. The next day he had a chance to speak with his head coach Chad Carlson about his decision.
"Ethan committed to Notre Dame and he's very excited about his decision," Lincoln head coach Chad Carlson responded when asked about Johnson's commitment. "I guess when this process started and Notre Dame came into the picture his eyes lit up. You saw that he had thought about [Notre Dame] from a long time. As a coach you get a read on your players and you just knew that Notre Dame was a place that he wanted to be.
"Why Notre Dame? It's a little farther away, but at the same time he gets the opportunity to go to the school that he always dreamed about playing at. He gets to be on TV and we're going to get to watch him and we'll support him. They show all their games out here, so it's almost like he is here. I think that's a good deal for him.
"Playing time wasn't much of a factor for him," coach Carlson said. "I think that he knows that he'll eventually be the guy, and he'll make some great things happen for Notre Dame. All colleges that came through told him that they were going to play him right away. We heard that over and over. It was more than that. It was about finding a genuine fit for him.
"He thinks about all his decisions very clearly. He takes his time and has a good thought process about that. He wanted to see the [Notre Dame] campus and see the people in the community. Once he did, he knew it was a great fit for him."
Johnson selected Notre Dame over Michigan, USC, and Oregon. Although each program has an impressive head coach, it was Charlie Weis that really caught Ethan's attention.
"There were great coaches and great defensive coordinators at the top schools he was considering, and there were good people around program," coach Carlson explained. "A lot of the coaches impressed him. Pete Carroll was up, coach Bellotti was up and the defensive coordinator from Michigan was up, Ron English. They were great people. Ethan and I knew that. We talked about the great schools involved and great coaches involved. It was a good deal, but when coach Weis came out and talked to us, I really got a good feeling from it and I'm good friends with coach Bellotti.
"Coach Weis just did an amazing job of recruiting him. I think coach Weis realized that Ethan was a quality kid and was a kid that would fit in at Notre Dame. We just enjoyed listening to coach Weis. His character sold Ethan on being at Notre Dame. I've met a lot of impressive men in this world, but that guy was awesome. It was a pleasure talking to him and listening to him. He looked you in the eyes and told you what he meant and what he felt. He talked about everything with us and he was genuine when he did it. Ethan wanted to be around a guy with character, a lot of the coaches were, but I think there was a special fit with him and coach Weis.
"Ethan makes his own decision. We never push him one way or the other. We wanted him to experience all the schools. He was able to go to the junior day at USC. He was able to go to Michigan's camp and he was the MVP at their camp. He knew about all the schools offering him, and there were over fifty, but for a guy like coach Weis to come out and sit down and talk, I just got a good feeling about what they were all about.
"[The Notre Dame coaches] want high character guys," coach Carlson explained. "That's all that they talked about. They didn't talk about other schools. They didn't talk about going to the pros. They talked to him about coming out to school, getting his degree and being a man of character. That's the type of kid Ethan is. He is genuinely a great person. He wants to do good for everyone around him. He's not a guy that wants to cause trouble. He wants to go to school. He wants to be a stand-up guy and he wants to be a football player, and it's in that order.
"He's a team player. He wants his guys to realize that he's in it with them while he's here at school. He wants to win a sate championship in high school. He played in one that we lost at the last second. It's his goal to get his team back to the championship and he's doing everything he can to do that. This takes a lot of pressure of him during the season."
Coach Carlson knows that Johnson is a great football player, and he is excited to have him back for another year.
"When you're around him, you want to be around him more," Carlson said. "He's a yes sir, no sir type of guy. He has a lot of respect for everyone. He'll past the eye test right away. Ethan gets double-teamed and triple-teamed all the time. He's still able to come up with sacks and big plays at big moment. He's a great technician.
"He's a very smart kid. His technique is what separates him from other players from around the country. He understands the game. He'll come from behind the play and he'll case the play from sideline to sideline. His motor is good. He doesn't like to have guys go by him. Teams run away from him and if he wants to be in the action he has to get there and he does a great job of doing that. He's a fun guy to watch and he'll have great success at Notre Dame."